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Matthew Manger-Lynch

Matthew Manger-Lynch may or may not have been participating in an underground bike race when he was struck and killed on a bright February 2007 morning in one of Chicago’s infamous six-way intersections. Fault could be assigned to him or to the motorist with whom he collided. I wasn’t there so I won’t guess. All that remains is his Ghost Bike.

Ghost Bikes themselves exist without context…they simply mark the spot where a life violently ended. Maybe it was driver error, or rider error, an errant door, or just bad timing that ended the life each Ghost Bike memorializes. But the red thread of the Ghost Bike is not simply death, it’s death by automobile. And the irony of the Ghost Bike is that those who can benefit most from their stark reminder of death—the motorists that bring so much of it to our roads—are blind to these shrines. Who has time to reflect at 40mph?

And since we live in a car culture it’s this pervasive sense of futility, the quick return to business as usual after these tragedies, that irks me. The ceremony around Matt’s Ghost Bike was solemn, well attended, desperate, and brought me to the edge of tears even though I’d never met the man. I was moved both by Matt and by the knowledge that Matt’s was not the last Ghost Bike to be placed.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 698 cyclists were killed by automobile in the United States in 2007.

772 in 2006.

786 in 2005.

727 in 2004.


Above: Photo by Nicholas Westlund. Background: Photo by Scott Mullen